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Britain Turns to Chinese Textbooks to Improve Its Math Scores

<Britain Turns to Chinese Textbooks to Improve Its Math Scores> By Amy Qin August 5, 2017

Under a government-backed initiative in Britain, more than half the primary schools in England will adopt a teaching approach to math that is used in top-scoring places like Shanghai and Singapore.

Starting in upcoming January, British schools will have the option of using "Real Shanghai Mathematics," a series of 36 translated textbooks that are otherwise all but identical to those in public elementary schools around Shanghai.

Experts say England is the first country to implement a bold government-backed plan on such an educational adoption.

The teaching method, known as the "mastery" approach, is based on the idea that all students can succeed in learning mathematics

when given proper instruction. Rather than describing a concept and assigning problems to solve individually, the mastery method is more interactive, in which students are expected to precisely explain both solutions and underlying principles in front of the class.

Additionally, students will learn fewer concepts under this approach, which allows them to go into those concepts in greater depth. Only when the entire class has demonstrated a full understanding of one concept does the class move to the next.

The mastery approach is believed to have raised the academic achievements of students in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore, according to PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) test, which is carried out in over 60 countries every three years.

The movement to learn from China has been a major trend in a number of other countries such as United Arab Emirates, Kenya, and Malaysia as well.

On the other hand, some critics point out the fact that the mastery system is too culturally rooted in the Asian context, which would make it hard to be applicable in the West.

APPA UN NGO Intern Korea University Haeun Hong

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